The distinct flavour of dill makes pickles perfect, mixes well in dips and pairs delightfully with fish. Luckily for dill lovers, the herb grows quickly and steadily like a weed—but that makes it no less desirable in any herb garden.
Conrad Richter, owner of Richters Herbs in Goodwood, Ont., says dill is actually two different herbs: the seeds and the fresh leaves. “Although all dill varieties provide both, the different varieties were developed with one or the other product in mind,” he says.
Cultivars to try
Choose your dill depending on what you want to use it for, the leaves or the seeds. If it’s both you desire, grow a couple different types!
Richter breaks down the basic types of dill into two categories: traditional varieties, which are tall and need lots of space in your garden (and which tend to go to seed more quickly) and newer, more compact varieties that can be grown in containers if you’re short on space.
Three dill cultivars to consider:
Mammoth dill: a popular tall variety; produces great leaves and seeds
Monia dill: A “new and improved” dwarf variety like the better-known Fernleaf dill that can be grown in smaller spaces, including in containers (although a small spot in the garden is better—it’s not as tall as other varieties).
Dukat dill: “an excellent all-around variety” for gardeners with space to spare to let it grow to a good size
How to start dill
Sow your dill directly in the garden under a very thin layer of soil. Dill belongs to the carrot family with coriander, caraway, cumin and parsley, none of which like to have their roots disturbed (this can trigger the plant to go to seed).
If you seed after the last frost in your area, your dill will adapt better to cooler outdoor conditions and won’t suffer transplant shock. “In the end, this quickly makes up the weeks that indoor started plants have on the outdoor sown plants,” says Richter.
Where to grow dill
Ideally, plant your dill in “well-drained, loamy or sandy soils,” recommends Richter, although heavier clay soils work as well.
Dill, like most other herbs, loves sun. “But don't let non-ideal conditions stop you from trying dill,” says Richter. “A half-shaded corner in the garden will produce some nice foliage too—maybe not as wonderful as that grown in full sun, but still very nice to use in cooking.”
Richter says you can grow dwarf varieties of dill in containers if necessary, but it’s certainly not ideal. Unfortunately, though, “no dill lasts long in pots,” says Richter. “As the plants are cut back they do not regrow much—certainly not like other herbs such as mint or thyme. Generally people can expect to cut back a few times and then one has to start again. For dill enthusiasts, it makes sense to have several pots going in rotation at any one time.”